I got in to the oh-so-awesome GMail network courtesy of a friend last week. Now, another e-mail id to look after? That is not exactly convenient. I already take care of around 5 mail ids. And 2 of them are web based so they need manual checks every now and then. POP enabled mails do have their advantages. One click takes care of all the IDs in 1 go but GMail is not pop enabled. So, I won’t be using it full time of course… but a test ride? Sure, it needs to be looked into. It’s what supposed to be giving the web mail biggies nightmares and Yahoo! has responded with an announcement that free mail accounts will be upgraded to around 100 megs pretty soon.
So, what do I think about GMail? Here is what I discovered…
The first thing was a big turn off. I am a full time Opera browser user. I despise Internet Explorer and not exactly like Firefox. And with GMail, Opera is not even officially listed on supported browsers. I tried logging in anyways and was not successful. Next I tried on Firefox which is officially supported and weird, it did not let me login! The problem perhaps lies with my version of Firefox as I was able to login into GMail using an older variant of Firebird. Next I loaded myIE2… an Internet Explorer clone. It logged me in thankfully. But as I noticed later, many things were not working as expected so I moved on to Internet Explorer. So, as for browser support is considered, I would not like GMail at all if I am supposed to use IE for it! No matter it has Gigabyte space or what. I want Opera supported. Even Firefox won’t satisfy me. I wrote a mail to GMail people and got a fast reply back. They are looking into the browser compatibility issues and have planned to support as many of them before the final release as possible.
Using Internet Explorer for so long after such a long time was tough. I was constantly using mouse gestures which I love so much in Opera. But using GMail for sometime had me understood why GMail is not supported on many browsers. It uses too many funky features that are perhaps only IE supported that supporting other browsers with same functionality would be tough. Features they are, but they would not conform to standards as far as I see. Google does not have a DTD on its homepage makes me believe, Google is not exactly worried about supporting standards. Orkut too has minor problems with Opera but I am hopeful that Google will find some way out.
But I must admit, when it comes to user experience GMail knocks Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail hard. Speed is extra ordinary. It simply is too fast that you fear if it’s indeed a secure service. The pages load as if they are static html files. Scary at first, but you love it. And Google I believe loads a lot more than what you see. Coz clicking on advance options opens them in an instance. CSS and layers hard in usage! I loved it. Features that I have only seen in Opera’s M2 are available in GMail. Quick Reply/Forward box at the bottom of every opened mail lets you forward it or reply to it from there only. No need to open a new page! Mails are shown as a thread which is very convenient as you see all the mails related to each other in one single instance. There are labels for you to assign to mails and there is more. It’s one heck of a wonderful service that begs you think, how is it free! Here comes the crucial part. I did not see many ads. In fact most pages did not have any. One big mail with some good content showed the adsense ads which are creating furors in the market. They are not intrusive, irritating. They just are present at one side. It’s not something that’s in your face. And that is something wonderful. Compare that to Yahoo’s big flash ads and Microsoft’s heavy pages. You are in a world where you do what you are supposed to do. Manage your mails. And manage them fast!
One thing is clear, if the first impression is to go by; Microsoft and Yahoo! are in some trouble in the coming months. People might be using GMail currently for spams (in the name of testing it!) or Google might have listed Microsoft and Yahoo! as risk factors in IPO filing but I guess, people there are more worried.
Sushubh Mittal is the Tech Columnist at Search Engine Journal and also the publisher of TechWhack, an upcoming Blog Portal on technology.